For first time since March, Carroll County has more COVID-19 cases outside congregate living facilities than inside

For the first time since COVID-19 cases began exploding in nursing homes in late March, more Carroll County residents who do not live in such facilities have tested positive for the disease than those living or working in the facilities.

With the Carroll County Health Department reporting 17 more COVID-19 cases Friday among people not living in what it defines as congregate living facilities, Carroll ends the week with a total of 71 community cases. Health department spokesperson Maggie Kunz said 15 community cases were confirmed Saturday, July 18, and that was included in last week’s total, which stands at 43.


That breaks the previous weekly record of 60, on the week starting April 5, and indicates that the virus has been spreading among the wider Carroll community at a rate not seen previously.

In the weeks after the pandemic arrived in Carroll County, congregate living facilities — especially nursing homes — accounted for the majority of new cases being confirmed, with local municipalities, for the most part, avoiding severe spikes among community members. But that situation has flipped in recent weeks, with congregate living facilities seeing a fraction of the positive test results that have been seen outside the facilities.


Only nine cases originating in congregate living facilities have been announced thus far in July, compared to 180 in the community. Carroll has seen 1,317 COVID-19 cases to date, with 665 of them coming from the community and 652 coming from county residents who work and who live in congregate living facilities.

Although congregate living facilities have seen low levels of cases lately, they continue to represent most of the county’s deaths from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Of Carroll’s 136 deaths attributed to COVID-19, 122 have been from those facilities. The most recent announcement of a county resident dying from the virus was on Monday, when the health department reported that three elder care facility residents had died.

As of the morning of March 28, a total of 19 cases had been confirmed countywide — then, later that day, an outbreak was announced at Pleasant View Nursing Home in Mount Airy, with 66 residents infected at that time. To date, 88 residents and 47 staffers, 20 of whom live in Carroll, have contracted the virus at that facility; 31 residents have died.

Also on Friday, the health department reported a sudden, steep increase in the number of residents who have recovered from the disease. That figure had been stagnant at 310 since June 19, but now stands at 528. A spokesperson said the health department started using a contact tracing system that records those recovered patients, but staff encountered delays while transitioning to that system.

Despite the recent increases in new cases among Carroll residents, Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer said Wednesday that he was not planning to pursue any stricter limitations.

However, the Board of County Commissioners did vote Thursday to prohibit future large gatherings on county-owned properties, after the Carroll County Farm Museum hosted more than 1,000 guests Sunday for a private event.

The event, a reggae wine festival, was held with policies in place that included checking attendees’ temperature at the entrance, requiring masks in common areas, marking the ground to indicate social distancing, cleaning the bathrooms every 30 minutes and more, according to event coordinator Tanz Davidson. Guests were cooperative with the policies, Davidson said.

But Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, voiced concerns for what message the event sends about the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The Farm Museum is located at the base of Carroll Hospital Center. There’s COVID-positive patients in there looking down at 500 cars. Does that not trouble some of you?” he said at the Thursday board meeting.

Singer said the department reviewed plans for the event, at the request of county staff. He said the department did not endorse the event, but offered advice on ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

He also wrote that the county health department supports the commissioners’ vote to prohibit future large gatherings on county-owned property.

Wantz and Singer were among several county leaders who on July 16 issued a joint statement “strongly recommending” that Carroll countians continue to wear face coverings to help mitigate the virus’ spread.

Carroll County’s positivity rate, or the rate at which tests of county residents return positive, stands at 3.09% through July 23 (the previous figure was revised down to 3%). The last time the figure was higher than that was July 9, when it was 3.37%. The rate is reported as a seven-day rolling average based on data from the Maryland Department of Health. The statewide rate is 4.69%.


In community cases where ethnicity is known, 15% are Hispanic — a 2% decrease from previously reported. Where race is known, 87% of those testing positive have been white, 7% have been Black and 6% considered “Other.”

Of the 665 community members to test positive in Carroll, 13 are younger than 10 years old; 42 are in the 10-19 range; 123 are 20-29 years old; 95 are 30-39; 108 are 40-49; 163 are 50-59; 81 are 60-69; 22 are 70-79; and 18 are 80-89. Women have accounted for 329 of the positive tests, and men 336.

According to health department data, Westminster has the most cases in Carroll, with 429 across two ZIP codes, followed by Sykesville/Eldersburg with 365, Mount Airy with 190, Manchester with 93, Hampstead with 55, Taneytown with 50, Finksburg with 44, Keymar with 28, New Windsor with 26, Woodbine with 14, Marriottsville with 12 and Union Bridge with nine. Data is suppressed in ZIP codes with seven cases or fewer.

The number of hospitalizations for the disease remained flat at 91.

Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call that hotline between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 410-876-4848, or contact their doctor. After hours, callers may leave a message or call 211. People with emergencies should continue to call 911.

Times reporter Mary Grace Keller contributed to this article.

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